Two years ago, Shaun White was slapped with a lawsuit from Lena Zawaideh, the former drummer of his band Bad Things, accusing him of, well, bad things. Like sending her numerous pictures of penises (not his, but still), and forcing her to watch porn. Shaun White won the gold medal for men’s halfpipe at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. While being interviewed during a press conference about his third career gold medal, he was asked about those allegations. Let’s just say he didn’t get a gold medal for how he decided to answer the question.
Lena’s lawsuit was filed in 2016, but her allegations date back to 2014 and beyond. On top of sending her dick pics, Lena also claimed that Shaun once stuck his hands down his pants and tried to force her to smell his hands, that he tried to force a kiss on her at a Halloween party in 2010, and that he refused to pay her. Additionally, she alleged that Shaun attempted to dictate how she dressed (ie. sexier) and did her hair (ie. cutting it shorter) – things that Lena claims she fought against. In 2014, she was abruptly fired. Shaun denied all the allegations. Lena later had the lawsuit dismissed, and she and Shaun reportedly settled out of court.
Because the situation has shades of #MeToo to it, Matt Gutman of ABC News asked Shaun if he thought the allegations would tarnish his legacy. Shaun didn’t really want to talk about it.
“You know, honestly I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip, so. But I don’t think so. I am who I am, and I am proud of who I am. My friends, you know, love me and vouch for me and I think that stands on its own.”
When pressed further to “address it,” Matt Gutman was cut off by the moderator, who asked that they talk only about Shaun’s “amazing day.” Shaun then replied: “I feel like I addressed it.”
Shaun White on if he thinks the sexual harassment allegations against him will tarnish his legacy: "You know, honestly, here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip." pic.twitter.com/45I1DjTB2u
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) February 14, 2018
Sports reporter Christine Brennan pointed out that no female journalists were called upon during Shaun’s press conference, despite many having their hands up with questions.
Shaun White just called the awful allegations against him “gossip” in a press conference where no woman journalist was called upon even though several, including me, had their hand up the entire time. #MeToo
— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 14, 2018
The Associated Press says that other journalists attempted to ask Shaun questions about the allegations, but they were all shut down too, and the press conference quickly came to an end.
Acting with the cockiness of a private school student whose parents made the biggest donation to the new gymnasium clearly backfired on Shaun. He later sat down with Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on Today, and he apologized for calling the allegations “gossip.” He also vaguely addressed the allegations.
Shaun White apologizes for using the word "gossip" in reference to sexual misconduct allegations pic.twitter.com/hOGbnCejT6
— JessicaSimeone (@JessicaSimeone) February 14, 2018
According to Shaun White, he’s a “much more changed person,” and it’s all thanks to life’s “twists and turns and lessons learned.” I wish Hoda had asked Shaun a follow-up question, because I honestly think he may have accidentally fallen into a conversation about snowboarding.